December 2016 | Gayatri Kamath

A unique model and its holistic method

As custodian of the famed Tata Business Excellence Model (TBEM), the Tata Business Excellence Group (TBExG) has been helping Tata companies achieve global benchmarks in different operational spheres. Executive chairman S Padmanabhan talks about TBExG and its mandate, and how it helps create value and knowledge across the group.

TBEM has been a part of the Tata group for over two decades. How would you describe the journey so far?
For the last 20 years, TBEM has been a part of all Tata companies, and this alone makes it unique. No other group in the world has done it so consistently or in such a scalable manner. It has had a holistic impact on the companies because it looks not only at their financial results, but takes into account multiple stakeholders.

TBEM has helped our companies create and sustain long-term value for stakeholders. We have done over 700 assessments across the globe. Around 4,000 assessors and mentors have participated in this programme. Several assessors have moved on to become CEOs and MDs and are now TBEM mentors.

What impact has TBEM had on Tata companies?
The companies which adopted TBEM early, such as Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Tata Chemicals, Tata Motors and Tata Power, have shown the greatest impact. Today Tata Steel and TCS figure in the 650+ (TBEM score) bracket, and they are acknowledged industry leaders. It reflects in the brand value they have created for the group.

There are 14 companies in the 550-650 score range, the ‘emerging leader’ bracket. In a few years’ time, they will graduate to industry leadership position. We have another 26 companies at the next level, the ‘good’ performing category. These companies have adopted the model in such a way that in five years or so, they will become emerging industry leaders.

S Padmanabhan, executive chairman of TBExG, talks about the impact of business excellence across the Tata group

With changes in the business environment, how has TBEM evolved over time?
There are a couple of aspects to this. The first is that TBEM is derived from the Malcolm Baldrige model, which has evolved based on changing market and economic conditions. Since we are a licensee, those changes are reflected in TBEM.

The second aspect is that over the last four years we have done some seminal improvements. The TBEM initiative now has board-level visibility. The other change is in the methods used by companies to implement the improvement plan. TBExG now offers deeper engagements through deep dives, capability building and sharing of best practices in specific areas.

What are the typical challenges faced by companies in taking up something as intensive and all-pervasive as TBEM?
Companies in the early stages, the ones that have just started on the TBEM journey, face challenges in investing time and resources. They find it difficult to balance business exigencies with the need to put in strong processes.

For companies that are at a slightly higher maturity level, the challenge is to manage the changes in the external environment.

For more evolved companies such as TCS and Tata Steel, the situation is very different. For such mature companies the challenge is to find ways and means to derive value from the process.

How does TBExG engage with Tata companies in the business excellence journey?
The TBEM assessment acts like a general health check-up, which is needed by everyone, but the solutions for each company have to be customised as per particular need. The spectrum is wide — on one hand, we have large established companies like Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Steel, and on the other hand, we have newer entities like Tata CLiQ, Tata iQ and Tata Digital Health. A one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t work.

Is it a challenge to build assessing capability in the group?
Our challenge is not in getting people. There are a lot of people who want to be part of this; they see the TBEM assessment process as a mini-MBA. Our challenge is to utilise the talent that we have. The bigger challenge is in creating team leaders. The team leader’s skills are very important to the success of the assessment process.

How important is knowledge sharing and management for the business excellence initiative?
The Tata group has a lot of knowledge embedded in its companies and knowledge management can be a big differentiator for the group. We have created different mechanisms to share this knowledge.

TBExG’s vision is ‘to enable at least 25 Tata companies to achieve industry leadership by 2025’. What are the challenges in getting to this goal?

Two of our companies are already industry leaders. Another 14 are at the ‘emerging industry leader’ level; they will move forward in the next few years. For the others, we are looking at different methods. We are confident that we will achieve our vision of ‘enabling at least 25 Tata companies to achieve industry leadership by 2025'.

Winning the JRD QV Award
One of the milestones in the Tata group’s business excellence journey is the coveted JRD QV Award, named after former Chairman JRD Tata. Companies win the award when they cross the 650-mark in the Tata Business Excellence Model assessment. Prior to 2014, companies or business units won the award on gaining 600 points out of the total of 1,000.

This article is part of the cover story about the culture of business excellence across Tata group companies in the October - December 2016 issue of Tata Review:
Overview: Continuous improvement
Five Tata companies describe how business excellence has helped build value and reshape the business model
Read the complete articles, and more, in Tata Review
Tata Steel: Mastering change
The business excellence endeavour at Tata Steel has helped the company evolve continuously to stay on course in an industry that has been buffeted by transformative trends on multiple fronts
Titan Company: The goal: To get better all the time
Business excellence has powered the rise of Titan Company, and the proof of the pudding has been its evolution into a multidimensional success story
Rallis India: Get systematic to get superior
The process is prince and protector in the Rallis India way on business excellence, which has helped carry the company from its lowest point to the summit of its industry
Tata Power Delhi Distribution: Energy to spare in quality quest
Tata Power Delhi Distribution has banked on business excellence to overhaul its organisational structure, overcome challenges galore and build an exceptional enterprise
Tata Steel Processing and Distribution: Steely and sturdy
Business excellence has been the spark for a transformation exercise at Tata Steel Processing and Distribution, an enterprise that has matured further with every forward step